Here's the thing. As solopreneurs, we take a lot of pride in picking ourselves up by our bootstraps and building a business. We give ourselves credit, but the feeling of self-completion we get is insidious, sneaking into our thoughts and clouding our judgments. It's chick to think of ourselves as being wholly independent, but it's a conceit.
The big secret about solopreneurship is that there's no such thing as a soloprenuer.
No One Goes It Alone
As a business owner, even a freelancer, it's impossible to build a business completely solo. Indeed, when taking an honest look at what that would include, it would be prohibitive to try.
Let's take a look at how I build my business.
I needed a website, but I couldn't figure out how to properly configure it. (I'm not talking about my current site for Colibri Digital Marketing, but rather my very first website.)
An acquaintance that I'd met in a class I'd been taking offered to give me a hand, eventually going way above and beyond by creating my logo (which I adore!) without ever expecting anything in return.
One of my first clients was a friend who took a chance on me, an industry rookie, and hired me to custom build his website. Next, another friend hired me to lead a social media training program through her non-profit. Things really took off for me when I joined BNI (an international networking group), hired a business coach, and started getting Yelp reviews.
Now, I have business partners in Bucharest, and subcontractors I could not get anything done without.
Does any of this sound like I am alone?
The Truth about Solopreneurship
For the first couple of years, despite my partnerships, help from friends, and so on, I felt alone (and scared!). But though I felt like I was on a tightrope, I always had a net. Even when I couldn't see it, my relationships with friends, clients, vendors, contractors, and other connections were a huge part of the business I was building.
Networking as a Solopreneur
Entrepreneurs, and solopreneurs, are passionate and often single-minded, people who aren't afraid to test new ideas and chart new territories. Strangely, they often lack people-skills because, fundamentally, their passion is for ideas.
If you fall into this category, don't think you can't still leverage your passions to foster great relationships. Think about your relationships as a form of research, a way to discover more about your business and explore your industry.
When you meet with people, you'll be exchanging information about a topic of shared interest. Ask lots of questions. Learn as much as you can. People love to talk about themselves and their passions, so you'll be learning from enthusiastic people, while developing your own ideas in the bargain.
Think about whom you'd most like to do business with, and reach out to those people first. Don't necessarily think of this as "networking" (if you find that the word comes with a felling of pressure) but, if you like, reshape it for yourself as "un-networking."
Learning to Un-Network
The un-networking approach has some important benefits.
First, it'll feel natural to focus on learning, sharing, and developing your expertise. Your business will grow with you at a pace that's right for your developmental phase (and you won't feel "salesy," another term that gives me the heebie-jeebies, like "networking.")
Meeting with all kinds of people will help you stay fresh and open to creative possibility. The mere act of taking a break from your work will help your mind work better.
Finally, here's another unexpected benefit: If you live, like I do, in a walkable city, you can get exercise by walking to your meetings. I aim for 10,000 steps every day, and I rarely fall short.
Growing a business is demanding, and can be very hard on your body. Whether you're feeling the effects of stress and sleeplessness, or the lethargy from sitting at a computer for hours at a stretch, walking to meetings preserves your health and sanity.
Here’s the take home: Being a solopreneur is great. I love it! It affords me autonomy, authority, and lots of opportunity for creativity. Now that I've admitted I'm not alone, it's a lot less stressful, as well.
What about You?
What's your opinion? Is it every (wo)man for themselves or are we all in this together?